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東京大学公共政策大学院 | GraSPP / Graduate School of Public Policy | The university of Tokyo

GraSPPers Voice GraSPPers Voice

Dual Degree Program Experience at Columbia University, SIPA

Risa Shibata (from Japan)

My dual degree program experience at Columbia University was a year filled with opportunities,
allowing me to growth on both personal and academic levels. From attending daily career networking
events to listening to talks and lectures given by Presidents, Prime Ministers and Governors throughout
the world, SIPA definitely allowed me to expand my horizon and explore.

I had two main goals in mind when I applied to SIPA. Goal one was to participate in a capstone project of
my research interest and acquire practical skills necessary in studying development. I have always been
interested in working in a developing country in the future, particularly in the education field. At SIPA, I
joined a capstone organized by the United Nations Education Commission, a NGO that supports
education policy reforms. I was privileged to travel to Rwanda for 10 days to observe the education
policy reforms conducted in the country particularly on the primary education level. As it was my first
time to travel to an African country, the entire experience was very eye-opening, allowing me to
develop further interest and curiosity in working in Africa. Through multiple interviews and talking to
several government officials, I realized that compared to Japan, Rwanda is a very young country,
constantly seeking for change. President Kagame is very proactive, and the policy implementation
process is very systematic and efficient, which has been both a positive and a negative impact on the
education sector in the country. It was not easy to see the entire picture through desk work, and this
crucial experience reminded me of the importance of fieldwork.

A second goal that I had was to do an internship at the United Nations. Although I knew what the UN
does and its convoluted list of organizations that it is comprised of, I always wanted to see how the
inside is and evaluate for myself. I did an internship at the Permanent Mission of Japan to the UN and a
fellowship at UN Women. Both experiences were extremely valuable, as I had several occasions to
network with UN staff and listen to so many diverse career paths that led them to the UN. As an intern
at the UN Mission to Japan, I had the opportunity to attend UN Security Council meetings as well as
General Assembly meetings. I also had the privilege to negotiate at resolution meetings where I was able
to understand the standpoint of Japan towards various global issues that the world is facing today.
Although balancing an internship / fellowship and classes at SIPA was not always easy, this experience
was certainly fruitful and rewarding.

While at SIPA, I lived at the International House, which is a 10 minute walk away from campus.
Approximately a third of the entire student body at SIPA also lived at I-house, making it so easy to make
close friends as we bonded over endless assignments and exam preparations. Most students had
working experience, and SIPA represented students from over 100 countries. The diverse student body
was one of the most stimulating parts of SIPA and I am so thankful to GraSPP for providing me with such
a precious opportunity to be representing GraSPP as a dual degree student at SIPA.